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Local celebrities ready to hoof it for charity at Dancing for a Cause
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The local celebrities for this year's Dancing for a Cause fundraiser pose for a photo with the mirror ball trophy at the North Georgia Community Foundation in Gainesville, Georgia, on Thursday, March 22, 2018. From left are Andy Miller, Al Satterfield, Ashton Meeks, John LaForge, Margie Couvillon, Rustin Smith, Christy Wagner, Trey Greene, Lona Pope and Brooke Morters. - photo by Layne Saliba

For the past three months, local celebrities have been practicing their dance moves with professional dancers in hopes of winning the mirror ball trophy at the Dancing for a Cause competition.

Although most of them admitted they didn’t have much dance experience at the beginning, Lona Pope, one of the contestants, said things are looking good for the event set for 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25, at the Chattahoochee Country Club. There are still a few seats left.

Dancing for a Cause

What: fundraiser for three local nonprofits

When: 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25

Where: Chattahoochee Country Club, 3000 Club Drive, Gainesville

Tickets: 770-535-1050

“Like everybody else, I can get out there and dance, but I have no dancing experience,” said Pope, CEO of First Financial Services of Gainesville, Canton and Cornelia. “My dance professional has been so courteous and kind and thoughtful to my needs and my age, so it’s been great so far.”

Each contestant spends the time leading up to the event raising money by hosting fundraisers and raffles or any other way they can. All the money raised leading up to the event and on the night of goes to support Center Point, Gainesville-Hall County Alliance for Literacy and Rape Response Inc., all nonprofit agencies in Hall County.

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Ashley McCray, right, dances with her partner Joe Dix on Saturday during the 2017 Dancing for a Cause event in Gainesville. - photo by David Barnes

“Everything has been going very well,” said David Smith, executive director of Center Point. “We’re very pleased. Our community celebrities have just been doing an awesome job and working hard with their dancers and getting the community involved in donating and voting for them. So it’s really going well.”

Pope has raised the most money so far and said she hopes to raise even more in the coming days. She’s raised more than $27,500 and still has another auction on the schedule.

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Anjana Freeman, left, dances with her partner Jonathan Bryant on Saturday during the 2017 Dancing for a Cause event in Gainesville. - photo by David Barnes

Her son and daughter-in-law hosted a raffle for a week at the beach after a group of Popes friends had already hosted a party to raise money.

“I had about a dozen friends that wanted to put on a gathering of sorts,” Pope said. “We had music, tacos and margaritas and we invited 120 people to come out. Everything was free and we just had a box and they could give whatever they wanted.”

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Danita Hamilton dances during the 2017 Dancing for a Cause event in Gainesville. - photo by David Barnes
She raised more than $10,000 through that one event.

Barbara Hicks, director of program development at Center Point said the actual numbers don’t matter much. All the money raised will go to three deserving agencies to help in the best way possible.

“We will all be able to continue to serve, or serve more clients than we have in years past,” Hicks said. “All of it will be used in Hall County, to benefit Hall County residents and people in their families.”

After just 10 hours of training, the night of the event puts each contestant on stage to dance in the style and to the song of their choice. Some of them have suffered injuries during practice, but Pope said she’s been able to avoid that issue. She’ll be doing a ballroom waltz with her partner.

“There’s a song my husband and I always loved,” Pope said of her late husband, Richard. We called it ‘our song.’ ... To be in something like this, I had to have something that drew on my passion and that’s what this song does. Everybody has their own story and that’s mine.”

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Members of The Hazbenz perform on Saturday during the 2017 Dancing for a Cause event in Gainesville. - photo by David Barnes
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